Big Eyes is a departure for Tim Burton, but that doesn’t help matters:
I have to credit my other half with this summation: Big Eyes is a film about honesty that isn’t honest in any way. Tim Burton takes the ostensibly true-life story of Margaret Keane as an opportunity to make a film very much out of his style, but his lack of comfort beyond the Burtonisms is palpable. The resulting tale plays against a weird pastiche of Vertigo crossed with Sweet Smell of Success, sprinkled with odd references to his own films, and ends with such a whimper you’d be forgiven for thinking he messed up the edit. It’s watchable, but only just.
Cold in July, meanwhile, is a retro recast of Southern noir as an exploitation flick:
Cold in July is two films for the price of one. The first, more successful, half plays like an East Texas take on Cape Fear, as a small-town family man (Michael C Hall) who kills a home intruder faces the wrath of the deceased’s recently paroled father (Sam Shepard). The film then pivots in the second half, as Don Johnson’s character enters the fray, into a very different kind of revenge thriller with serious shades of Kill List if made by the Coen Brothers.
Granted, the film as a whole follows the plot of Joe R Lansdale’s 1989 cult pulp novel, though Jim Mickle’s adaptation feels like that story filtered through the aforementioned cinematic influences, with a twist of ’80s throwback aesthetic in the general presentation and choice of soundtrack (Carpenter-esque synths for the most part, with the era’s real soundtrack – balls-out hair metal – saved for the end credits). It’s not entirely successful, being a bit too self-conscious about its place in the bigger scheme of things, but the palpable tension it builds can’t be denied.